NGO Code of Conduct
It is almost 30 years since many of our present Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) first began working in Ethiopia. The leading ones (both national and international) originally became involved in order to mitigate the effects of the droughts of 1973-74 and 1984-85. Since then, however, their emergency response and relief activity roles have gradually declined and today the important challenges are in the fields of rehabilitation and development.
This change from emergency relief to sustainable development is of far-reaching significance to Ethiopia and needs to be handled with care, transparency and accountability. There is also an increasing involvement of NGOs in advocacy, in human rights and civic education. As NGOs have emerged as important development partners, they need to inform what they stand for, their policies, achievements and what they plan to do in the future.
NGO networking, co-ordination and understanding have, in the past, been less than ideal and several independent initiatives were taken in order to examine the role and relationships of NGOs in Ethiopia. These initiatives included:
These fora discussed the basic principles of the law governing NGOs, issues of volunteerism, and the need for a code of conduct for NGOs. On March 14, 1997, members of the various umbrella organisations (CRDA, CEVO, Society for Participatory Development in Ethiopia, (SPADE) and Consortium of Family Planning NGOs in Ethiopia, (COFAP) appointed a body called an ĎAd Hoc NGO Consultation Working Group constituting of representative from each umbrella organisation and two resource NGOs, IAG and PACT, to come up with a draft code of conduct for NGOs in Ethiopia using the previous initiatives and opinions gathered through a series of consultations of the NGO community. CRDA was chosen to serve as the secretariat of the Group.
The Group examined a number of works in the field and adaptations of other NGO communities in other countries during its regular meetings. It then framed the first draft of Code of Conduct for NGOs in Ethiopia, which was scrutinised and further developed at two national consultative meetings at Africa Hall in February and September 1998. The September meeting, attended by well over 200 NGO representatives, endorsed the final draft as an instrument of self-regulation.
The Code of Conduct has introduced for the first time standards for previously unregulated activities. It will encourage more effective and efficient ways of working and will improve the partnership between the NGO sector, the government and the private sector. It will ultimately contribute to an enabling environment for all sectors and to the sustainable development of Ethiopia and its people.